"A NEW INSIGHT INTO PURIM"
Each year when Purim comes, we have a great time. We dress up in costumes, laugh, sing, dance, have a little wine, enjoy a "schpeil", and generally make merry. We sit and listen to the reading of the Megillah (Scroll of Esther) and take great delight in booing, hissing, stamping our feet and using our graggers each time the name of Haman is said.
Most of us remember the story of Purim quite well. We remember the fact that Mordechai was a Jew, and he refused to bow down or bend a knee when the King's Prime Minister (Haman) passed by. The name of G-d is never mentioned in the Megillah, but the rabbis tell us that the reason Mordechai would not bow down or bend his knee was because Haman wore an idol around his neck, and Mordechai would not bow down nor appear to worship a false god. He would rather risk the wrath of the Prime Minister than that of his G-d. When Haman found out that Mordechai was Jewish, he devised a plan to put all Jews to death. Little did he know that Queen Esther, the beloved wife of the King (and niece of Mordechai) was also Jewish. Mordechai implored Esther to intercede with the King on behalf of the Jewish People, she did, and the Jews of Shushan were saved.
Haman was hung on the gallows that he built for Mordechai, and: "The city of Shushan was cheerful and joyous: the Jews had light and joy, gladness and felicity." (Esther 8:15-16) Rabbi Levi Yitzchak (of Bardichiv) teaches that the city of Shushan (i.e.: the non-Jews living there) was cheerful and joyous, but that the Jews alone had light and joy, gladness and felicity. The focus of his teaching is the difference between the city of Shushan being joyous and cheerful, but not having the "light" that was possessed only by the Jews. What was the "light?" Rabbi Levi Yitzchak tells us that the light comes when a person is happy and knows the reason for his or her happiness, therefore having knowledge of the reason for ones happiness causes enlightenment.
We are instructed to "drink so much on Purim that we can no longer distinguish between the blessing of Mordechai and the cursing of Haman." That seems to most to be a strange instruction, unless of course you take the time to look at the reason for such a request. You see, as Jews, we are commanded to not overly rejoice at the defeat of our enemies. We are commanded to see their humanity and their worth as children of G-d; after all, are we not all His creations? When we get so drunk that we cannot tell the difference between blessing Mordechai and cursing Haman, we are following G-d's Will. We are told, however, that we should take the time to remember first. To remember to be responsible, and not to endanger the lives or health of others or ourselves. To remember the story of how brave Mordechai and Esther were, and to remember to give Tzedakah before the merriment begins. Purim is a time to give gifts of food and drink (Mishloach Manot) to friends and especially a time to give money to charity ("Mattanot la-evyonim" - "gifts to the poor").
The Jewish ideal is that our joy cannot be complete if it is self-centered. We must be willing and able to share our joy and good fortune with others, or it will not be pleasing in the Sight of our G-d. It is like the sign hung in the bar: "If you're drinking to forget, please pay first..." So it is on
Purim, before you begin to drink and make merry, pay the piper, remember those who are less fortunate than you, and give of yourself! Only then are you free to enjoy the holiday.
The most important lesson of Purim, in my opinion, is the lesson of the courage of Mordechai and of Esther. Mordechai stood up for what he believed in, even when he was threatened with death. We are commanded in Deuteronomy (16:20): "Justice, Justice shalt thou pursue, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy G-d giveth thee." I have been told (just this past week, in fact) that I sometimes "go overboard" when I perceive an injustice being done to someone. Perhaps the person who told me that is correct, perhaps at times I do tend to "go overboard" - to get too involved when I see someone being hurt or falsely accused or treated unjustly. But I can tell you one thing for sure. I would rather be known as a fierce guardian of justice, a lioness, than a sheep that stands by and does not get involved unless it directly affects my family or me. So, if I'm guilty of going overboard, it's okay with me, with my husband and (I pray) with my G-d, so long as it's for the sake of an ideal or a commandment mandated by my Tradition and by G-d. My husband, who has helped to teach me this value by his own example, has asked that the inscription of Mordechai (whose Hebrew name he bears) be written as his epitaph: V'Mordechai Lo Yich'rah V'Lo Yish'tah'chaveh." " And Mordechai neither bowed down, nor did he give obeisance." (Esther 3:2)
Dear Friends, especially at this time of Purim, I wish you joy; but more importantly, I wish you the courage and commitment of Esther and Mordechai. The courage and commitment to stand up for what you believe in, even when it might make you unpopular or disliked by those who might be perpetuating injustice. Remember that when G-d is on your side, you will ultimately win out against injustice and evil. And do not forget to give Tzedakah this Purim season, especially at a time when there are so many others in need. Please, give what you can, to whom ever or what ever you choose but give something to someone this Purim!
Rebbetzin Micki D. Hecht
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